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Climate Change Grant Awarded to the Owl Research Institute

Snowy Owl nest, Simone Welch photo

The Owl Research Institute is honored to receive a grant award from the prestigious Charlotte Martin Foundation to begin a new project, Identifying Climate Change on Arctic Ecosystems in Barrow, Alaska as revealed through Snowy Owl to Lemming Population analysis.

The Charlotte Martin Foundation, based out of Seattle, Washington, selects grant recipients from a highly competitive field. The Foundation seeks to "support the resilience of our vital ecosystems by promoting biodiversity and the protection of wildlife, especially in an era of changing climate," among other goals. Some of the application criteria were:

  • Conservation efforts that utilize the impacts of climate change

  • Engaging a community of citizens, scientists, and conservationists in educating the public about biodiversity and climate change

The Owl Research Institute has researched Snowy Owls and their relationship to the Brown and Collared Lemming near Barrow, AK for 26 yrs. From this immense data set, our trend line maps a decline in Snowy Owl populations; such that, if to continue at its current rate, an end to the Snowy Owl in this area may be foreseeable. While we have data illustrating a population in decline; we do not have the scientific ‘why’: Why are these declines occurring? Based on field observations and climate data, we believe these declines may relate to a changing climate.

In order to answer this question, we will partner with a biostatistician. A statistical analysis will synthesize our Snowy Owl and lemming population data (26 years) with climactic data from the Barrow Alaska Observatory (est. 1973), part of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Lab, and the National Weather Service observatory, also in Barrow. This analysis will look to identify important associations between changes in temperature and population behavior. When completed, the outcomes will be published and shared with the public in an effort to contribute new information to the climate change conversation.

This is a long anticipated project that represents new territory for the Owl Research Institute. We are honored and thrilled to be partnering with the Charlotte Martin Foundation in order to explore and achieve shared conservation goals. Our research would not be possible without the thoughtful generosity of groups like the Charlotte Martin Foundation.

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